Monday, September 20, 2010

Stress killers

What special thing can I do to reduce my stress level? That was the first question I got from a client this morning at the office. Like always, the first thing I thought of was food. Yes, my brain has been trained and structured to always think food and good nutrition.

I gave him a list of some stress bursting foods. By the time I was done with the list, I realized that I could put the list here for you to read and be nutri-alert.

Stress management can be a powerful tool for wellness. There is evidence that too much pressure is not just a mood killer, people who are under constant stress are more vulnerable to everything from colds to high blood pressure and heart disease. Although there are many ways to cope or deal with stress, one strategy is to eat stress-fighting foods.

Foods can fight stress in several ways. Comfort foods, like a bowl of warm oatmeal, actually boost levels of serotonin, a calming brain chemical. Other foods can reduce levels of cortisol and adrenaline- stress hormones. Finally, a nutritious diet can counteract the impact of stress, by boosting the immune system and lowering blood pressure. Do you know which foods are stress killers?

Complex Carbohydrates - All carbohydrates prompt the brain to make more serotonin. For a steady supply of this feel-good chemical, it is best to eat complex carbohydrates, which are digested more slowly. Good choices include whole-grain breakfast cereals, breads, and pastas, as well as oatmeal. Complex carbohydrates can also help you feel balanced by stabilizing blood sugar levels. 

Oranges - Oranges make the list for their wealth of vitamin C. Studies suggest this vitamin can reduce levels of stress hormones while strengthening the immune system. If you have a particularly stressful event coming up, you may want to consider vitamin C supplements. In one study, blood pressure and cortisol levels returned to normal more quickly when people took 3,000 milligrams of vitamin C before a stressful task.

Spinach - Never let stress get the best of you, eat spinach. This is a very good source of magnesium.  Magnesium helps regulate cortisol levels. Too little magnesium may trigger headaches and fatigue, thereby compounding the effects of stress. Try some other foods that are high in magnesium like soybeans if you are not a spinach eater.

Fatty Fish - To keep cortisol and adrenaline in check, make friends with fatty fish. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish like salmon and tuna, can prevent surges in stress hormones and protect against heart disease. 

Black Tea, not Coffee. - Research suggests black tea can help you recover from stressful events more quickly. Coffee, on the other hand, can boost levels of cortisol.

Avocados - One of the best ways to reduce high blood pressure is to get enough potassium, and half an avocado has more potassium than a medium-sized banana. In addition, avocados offers a nutritious alternative when stress have you craving a high fat treat.

Almonds - Almonds are full of helpful vitamins. There is vitamin E to bolster the immune system, plus a range of B vitamins, which may make the body more resilient during bouts of stress. 

Raw Veggies - Crunchy raw vegetables can fight the effects of stress in a purely mechanical way. Munching carrot sticks can ward off tension headaches.

Bedtime Snack - Carbohydrates at bedtime can speed the release of serotonin and help you sleep better. Heavy meals before bed can trigger heartburn, so stick to something light like toast and jam.

Milk - Another bedtime stress buster is the time-honored glass of warm milk. Researchers have found calcium can reduce muscle spasms and soothe tension, as well as easing anxiety and mood swings linked to PMS. I recommend skim or low-fat milk.

De-Stress with Exercise - Besides  your diet, one of the best stress-busting strategies is to start exercising. Aerobic exercise is the most effective, because it increases oxygen circulation and produces endorphins. These are chemicals that make you feel happy. To get the maximum benefit, aim for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three to four times a week.

Note the foods that trigger the stress response-
•Refined Sugar
• Processed Flour
• Salt
• Caffeine
• Various Synthetic  Chemicals
Not only do processed foods and junk foods contain empty calories, they also contain substances that excite the sympathetic nervous system to release epinephrine and nor-epinephrine. If you are already stressed, eating these foods will be like throwing gasoline on the fire. Processed sugar and processed flour are known to have this effect. The big culprit is a substance found in caffeine that really excites the nervous system. Coffee, chocolate, some tea, sodas and energy drinks are foes. Salt falls in another category (bigger foe). Salt is known to cause water retention. This results in an increase in blood pressure. 

Am certain that there are more stress killer foods out there. Can you think of any?